Monday, March 18, 2013

Gilbert and Sullivan. The Gondoliers. Capital University Conservatory of Music.

For its Spring production, the Capital University, Conservatory of Music offered the musical farce The Gondoliers Or The King of Barataria by W.. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

The Sunday matinee of this operetta was a flawless treat produced and directed by Mark Baker.  The production occupied the Lincoln Theater facilities which presented a congenial environment for the audience.  Parking was convenient and sufficient.  Theater staff and off-duty police officers directed street traffic so access to the theater was easy.

The high-spirited overture of The Gondoliers greeted the audience.  When the curtain rose to a set depicting a sunny Venetian piazza, the grey clouds of an Ohio March afternoon were promptly dispelled. 

The pit orchestra of twelve was conducted by William Boggs who is familiar to opera-goers for his work with Columbus Light Opera and Opera Columbus.

The plot of this farce is complicated but not too complicated for its audiences to understand easily. Two infants are secretly married to each other by their parents.  The infants are eventually entitled to wear the royal crowns of Barataria. From this premise, there quickly follows the complications of informal foster-care, bigamy and mistaken (or uncertain) identities.  There is satiric bite in the lyrics, most at the expense of the European noble classes. 

Much of the satire in The Gondoliers is about political issues that are still debated:  Egalitarianism, Republican forms of governments, children’s rights, forms of marriage and even privatization of governmental institutions.  The “one percent, forty-seven percent” debates of the recent U.S. presidential elections seemed familiar in this script from 1889 Britain.  Even the current debates about water-boarding are presaged by the torture chamber used in this script by Don Alhambra Del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitor.

The principal parts and players were:

Marco Palmieri and Giuseppe Palmieri played by Chris Bozeka and Trent Smith.  Their love-interests, Tessa and Gianetta, were played by Katie Beth Jackson and Alissa Ruth.

Chris Bozeka and Trent Smith. are excellent comic players.  Their distinctive portrayals of gondolier swains  Marco Palmieri and Giuseppe Palmieri were successful.  Their love-interests, Tessa and Gianetta, are not comic characters.  As played by Katie Beth Jackson and Alissa Ruth, Tessa and Gianetta provide necessary musical relief from the comic poses of the Palmieri brothers.  Jackson and Bozeka are seniors and vocal performance majors at Capital.  Smith is a sophomore also majoring in vocal performance and Ruth is a junior majoring in vocal music education.

The eventual king and queen of Barataria, Luiz and Casilda, were played by Emily Riggin and Zack Pytel.  Their romantic duets were memorable.  If ever romantic love had the precise harmony that these two lovers displayed, broken hearts would disappear and be forgotten.  Riggin is a senior majoring in vocal performance.  Pytel is a sophomore music education major.

Duke of Plaza-Toro and Duchess of Plaza-Toro, Philip Hurd and Heather Rudisill  These two players have the principal parts for comic support.  They dance, they joke, they sing and they get laughs.  Hurd is a sophomore majoring in vocal performance.  Rudisill is a senior at Capital majoring in vocal performance.

Don Alhambra del Bolero, Dylan Woodring.  Woodring is the Grand Inquisitor and plays the part wonderfully.  He is the villain, dressed all in black.  Woodring has a stage presence appropriate for his billowing back cape and plays the part of comic villain well.  His voice however has a happy and friendly quality that reassures an audience that all will end well, not exactly the message you expect from a villain.

Much of the singing in this operetta is structured as duets and quartettes of the principals.  The color and strength of the voices and the precision of harmonies was enchanting.  But this is still Gilbert and Sullivan so just when you feel the romance in the lyric and melody, the thirty member chorus rushes onto the stage right and stage left en masse, reminding us that this is a comedy.

The chorus, male and female, were lively and well-choreographed.  No credit for choreography is given in the program.  

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